Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The NewSpace Race

Click the arrow to watch Gabriel Rothblatt's statement on NewSpace. Video source: Gabriel Rothblatt YouTube channel.

Gabriel Rothblatt, the Democratic challenger to Space Coast representative Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) in this November's congressional race, posted today on YouTube the above video detailing his views and plan for supporting NewSpace in his district.

It's simply stunning to hear a political candidate of any partisan stripe articulate such a passionate and insightful endorsement of NewSpace — much less know what it is.

The demographics are against Rothblatt in November. Posey won re-election in the 8th District in November 2012 with 58.9% of the vote. The district includes Brevard County plus parts of Orange and Indian River counties. According to the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections, as of August 25 only 33% of the district is registered Democrat, while 42% is registered Republican.

According to BallotPedia, three different political analysis services rate Posey's district “solid” or “safe” for the incumbent.

After he took office in January 2009, Posey made nonsensical claims that China was going to colonize the Moon as a “military high ground.”

At a February 2010 space summit in Orlando, Posey falsely claimed that President Barack Obama “made a promise that he would close the gap between shuttle and Constellation” and “made the gap eternal” when in fact Obama said no such thing; he did promise to “speed the Shuttle's successor” but he never said that would be Constellation.

Posey has consistently voted for NASA spending bills that slashed commercial crew funding, extending NASA reliance on the Russian Soyuz for International Space Station access by at least two years. Obama didn't extend the gap. Posey did.

In September 2012, Posey co-sponsored legislation that would transfer management of NASA from the executive branch to Congress. That legislation, of course, went nowhere and some felt it was unconstitutional.

But to his credit, Posey's position on commercial space has evolved in the last year.

In September 2013, Posey confronted Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) when the latter, who chairs the House Space Subcommittee, tried to cut off Posey who was trying to object to political interference in the commercial use of Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A. Posey organized the entire Florida congressional delegation, Republican and Democrat, into signing a letter opposing political interference in the Pad 39A bid.

Click the arrow to watch the February 10, 2014 House hearing on disposal of underutilized NASA facilities.

In February 2014, Posey was one of the House members who attended a joint committee hearing at the KSC Visitor Complex to urge transfer of unused KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force station assets to the private sector. In his remarks, Posey said:

There was a time when America virtually had a monopoly on commercial space. A hundred percent of the satellites fundamentally were launched from right here. Under the old business model with NASA and the Air Force, we basically choked the Golden Goose to death with red tape and over-regulation, launch fees and other disincentives. Many in the commercial space industry found it much more advantageous to operate in other countries, where in fact instead of overregulating and essentially taxing the commercial space industry, they subsidized it. Pretty soon, we became not very competitive and we went from a hundred percent of the world's commercial launch business to probably less than ten percent.

In July 2014, Posey sponsored with Democrat Derek Kilmer (D-WA) the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act to establish laws governing the exploration and harvesting of asteroids.

To my knowledge, Posey has canned the loopy China-turning-the-Moon-into-the-Death-Star rhetoric and seems to finally understand that the Space Coast must change its ways to compete in the NewSpace economy. But Rothblatt has issued a statement far more in favor of NewSpace than anything Posey has said to date. Many of the residents around Kennedy Space Center are still stuck in the past, so I doubt they'll support Rothblatt, but they weren't going to vote for him anyway due to partisan affiliation.

Rothblatt nonetheless deserves accolades for a positive and visionary statement supporting NewSpace, telling the locals what they need to hear — even if they don't want to hear it.

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